Very few Australians remain untouched by the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires of 2019. Air thick with ash, red skies, rare firestorms, and a constant undercurrent of fear hung over our heads like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, here to deliver a single, palpable message. That our country is sick. For months Australia burned. Human lives were lost, family homes torched to the ground and an estimated 300 billion animals were scorched and killed. But the greatest tragedy of all, as climate scientist Tim Flannery says in Amazon's new documentary Burning, “is that we saw this coming”.
As whole communities lined the beaches of Mallacoota or mourned the loss of loved ones in Cobargo, the entire world watched on, some from the cushy vantage point of Hawaii. Burning captures this tension. The documentary drives home the lived reality of climate change, one that world leaders have been suppressing for decades.
Helmed by Emmy and Academy-Award winning Australian director Eva Orner, the documentary weaves together the traumatic stories from survivors, activists and experts. We hear from teenage activist Daisy Jeffrey, former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins, Indigenous author Bruce Pascoe.
These interviews are interlaced with never-before-seen footage of the fires, images of wildlife piled up on the side of highways, and snippets from politicians along with other talking heads, exposing them for fanning misinformation around the bushfires.
For many, the soundtrack of that summer was the sound of news reports detailing the damage, the voices of crowds marching for climate action, and all too often the feeble excuses of politicians deflecting responsibility and defending coal. Burning is a clarion call for audiences to remember this time, and to let it fuel our climate response. It's a reminder that Australia, let alone the world, cannot withstand a 1.5 increase in global warming, and evidence of what will happen if it does.
Most importantly, it exposes the flaws in our continual insistence on coal, holding the Federal Government accountable.